Media deals in first half top $37B

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The media merger party that's been going on for the past three years shows no signs of slowing down.

Led by the $11 billion acquisition of VNU by a consortium of six private equity firms and the $6 billion sale of Knight Ridder to McClatchy Co., the mergers and acquisitions market for media and information properties maintained a brisk pace in the first half, with 315 deals completed, according to a report by media investment bank Jordan, Edmiston Group. The combined value of the deals was more than $37 billion.

The number of deals was up 12.5% from the first half of 2005, and the total deal value climbed 33.5%.

B-to-b magazine deals totaled 19 in this year's first half, down from 26 in the year-earlier period. However, the value of those deals surged 21.8% to $2 billion, from $1.7 billion in last year's first half.

"You're seeing the value of deals going up because the underlying businesses are stronger, [there is] ongoing economic growth and private equity players have strong relationships with banks," said Richard Mead, managing director of Jordan, Edmiston, which in the first half of the year completed 18 media transactions, compared with nine in the same period last year.

Larry Grimes, president of media banking advisory firm W.B. Grimes & Co., said now is the "optimal time" for b-to-b media companies to sell. "Prices are great, and there still seems to be a good deal of VC money chasing deals."

The number of mergers and acquisitions in the exhibitions and conference space totaled 22 in the first half, up from 17 in the year-earlier period, according to Jordan, Edmiston. The deal value fell 65% to $631 million, from $1.8 billion.

Online deals totaled 86, up from 48 in last year's first half; the dollar value fell 38% to $3.7 billion, from $5.9 billion.

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